Have you ever met a slave? Would you recognize a slave if you met one? Most Americans believe that slavery in America ended after the 13th Amendment was passed and ratified. Unfortunately, modern-day slavery is alive and well in America, as well as internationally. Wherever desperate people are struggling to survive, and even in affluent cities such as Dubai, the capital of United Arab Emirates, there are human traffickers who are willing to recruit and exploit adults and children for housekeeping, farm and fishing manual labor, factory and construction work, and work in other sectors.
Human trafficking for the sole purpose of forced labor is called labor trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as: “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”
Millions of people are trafficked as slaves worldwide—generating billions of dollars in illegal profits annually. Sadly, companies such as Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, American Apparel and other corporations recently lobbied to dilute a bill ensuring that companies weren’t manufacturing their goods using forced labor in China. Pure greed is driving the decision to ignore modern-day slavery.
In the United States, trafficked slaves work in a variety of settings—in cities, on farms, and in quiet residential neighborhoods where few residents would suspect that human trafficking is happening in plain sight. Just last month, a suspected human trafficking ring bust occurred shortly after a man who’d been held against his will escaped and ran into the street screaming that he’d been kidnapped.
Do you know the signs of labor trafficking? Would you be able to recognize trafficking if it was taking place in your neighborhood? The Homeland Security website offers a free download of an indicator card (available in English and more than a dozen different languages) listing common indicators of human trafficking. The card also explains the difference between trafficking and smuggling and provides information on how you can report traffickers.
How You Can Help
Labor trafficking diminishes us all. When you purchase a product from a corporation that uses forced labor or employees who are abused and exploited, you are contributing to the situation. Leave the Nike sneakers on the shelf and seek out Fair Trade products and local area goods made by artisans who are paid fairly for their labor. You can also seek out lists of products “Made in the USA” because American laws protect workers from abuse and forced labor situations. When you are on sites such as Amazon, input the phrase “Made in the USA” or the name of a brand that does not contract out work to factories that are known to exploit their workers.
Another option for activism is to increase your awareness of how and where labor trafficking takes place so you can take appropriate action. Last year, BBC News reported that Google, Apple, and Instagram were allegedly enabling labor traffickers, because their apps were used by traffickers to buy and sell domestic workers in the Gulf region. Holding tech companies accountable for providing the tools for illegal labor trafficking makes it harder for human traffickers to do business. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness and speak out on behalf of those exploited workers who cannot speak up for themselves!
Below, is a list of sources providing additional information on this important issue.